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having a single hour in the day in which they can think of self? And when such men are out of favor, and are banished to their country-seats, where they have no want of either money or servants to supply their real wants, then indeed they are wretched, because then they have leisure to think of self without hindrance.
Hence it is that so many persons fly to play or to field sports, or to any other amusement which occupies the whole soul. Not that they expect happiness from any thing so acquired, or that they suppose that real bliss centres in the money that they win, or the hare that they catch. They would not have either as a gift. The fact is, they are not seeking for that mild and peaceful course which leaves a man leisure to speculate on his unhappy condition, but for that incessant hurry which renders this impracticable.
Hence it is, that men love so ardently the whirl and the tumult of the world; that imprisonment is so fearful a punishment; and that so few persons can endure solitude.
This, then, is all that men have devised to make themselves happy. And those who amuse themselves by shewing the emptiness and the poverty of such amusements, have certainly a right notion of a part of human misery; for it is no small evil to be capable of finding pleasure in things so low and contemptible; but they do not yet know the full depth of that misery which renders these same miserable and base expedients absolutely necessary to man, so long as he is not cured of that internal natural evil, the not being able to endure the contemplation of himself. The hare that he buys in the market, will not call him off from himself, but the chase of it may. And therefore, when we tell them that what they seek so ardently will not satisfy them, and that nothing can be more mean and profitless, we know that, if they answered as they would do if they thought seriously of it, they would so far agree with us at once; only that they would say also, that they merely seek in these things a violent
impetuous occupation, which shall divert them from themselves, and that with this direct intention, they choose some attractive object which engages and occupies them entirely. But then they will not answer in this way, because they do not know themselves. A gentleman believes sincerely that there is something noble and dignified in the chace. He will say it is a royal sport. And it is the same with other things which occupy the great mass of men. They conceive that there is something really and substantially good in the object itself. A man persuades himself that if he obtained this employment, then he would enjoy repose. But he does not perceive the insatiability of his own desires; and while he believes that he is in search of rest, he is actually seeking after additional
Men have a secret instinct leading them to seek pleasure and occupation from external sources, which originates in the sense of their continual misery. But they have also another secret instinct, a remnant of the original grandeur of their nature, which intimates to them that happiness is to be found only in repose; and from these opposite instincts, there emanates a confused project, which is hidden from their view in the very depth of the soul, and which prompts them to seek repose by incessant action; and ever to expect that the fulness of enjoyment, which as yet they have not attained, will infallibly be realized, if, by overcoming certain difficulties which immediately op pose them, they might open the way to rest.
And thus the whole of life runs away. We seek repose by the struggle with opposing difficulties, and the instant we have overcome them, that rest becomes insupportable. For generally we are occupied either with the miseries which now we feel, or with those which threaten; and even when we see ourselves sufficiently secure from the approach of either, still fretfulness, though unwarranted by either present or expected affliction, fails not to spring up from the deep recesses of the heart, where its roots naturally grow and to fill the soul with its poison.
And hence it is plain, that when Cineas said to Pyrrhus, who proposed to himself, after having conquered a large portion of the world, then to sit down. and and enjoy repose with his friends, that he had better hasten forward his own happiness now, by immediately enjoying repose, than seek it through so much fatigue; he advised a course which involved serious difficulties, and which was scarcely more rational than the project of this hero's youthful ambition. Both plans assumed that man can be satisfied with himself, and with his present blessings, and not feel a void in his heart, which must be filled with imaginary hopes? and here they were both in error. Pyrrhus could not have been happy either before or after the conquest of the world; and most probably the life of indolent repose which his minister recommended, was less adapted to satisfy him than the restless hurry of his intended wars and wanderings.
We are compelled then to admit, that man is so wretched, that he will vex himself, independently of any external cause of vexation, from the mere circumstances of his natural condition; and yet with all this he is so vain and full of lévity, that in the midst of a thousand causes of real distress, the merest trifle serves to divert him. So that on serious reflection, we see that he is far more to be commiserated that he can find enjoyment in things so frivolous and so contemptible, than that he mourns over his real sorrows. His amusements are infinitely less rational than his lamentations.
2. Whence is it that this man, who lost so lately an only son, and who, under the pressure of legal processes and disputes, was this morning so harrassed, now thinks of these things no more? Alas! it is no wonder. He is wholly engrossed in watching the fate of a poor deer, that his dogs have been chasing for six hours. And nothing more than this is necessary for a man, though he is brimful of sorrows! If he can but be induced to apply himself to some source of recreation, he is happy for the time; but then it is with a false
and delusive happiness, which comes not from the possession of any real and substantial good but from a spirit of levity, that drowns the memory of his real griefs, and occupies him with mean and contemptible things, utterly unworthy of his attention, much more of his love. It is a morbid and frantic joy, which flows not from the health of the soul, but from its disorder. It is the laugh of folly and of delusion. It is wonderful also to think what it is which pleases men in their sports and recreations. It is true, that by occupying the mind, they seduce it from the consciousness of its real sorrows: and so far is a reality. But then they are only capable of occupying the mind at all, because it has created for itself in them, a merely imaginary object of desire, to which it is fondly and passionately devoted.
What think you is the object of those men who are playing at tennis with such intense interest of mind and effort of body? Merely to boast the next day among their friends, that they have played better than another. There is the spring of their devotedness.Others again in the same way toil in their closets, to shew the Sçavans that they have solved a question in algebra, which was never solved before. Others expose themselves, with at least equal folly, to the greatest dangers, to boast at length of some place that they have taken: and others there are, who wear out life in remarking on those things; not that they themselves may grow wiser, but purely to shew that they see the folly of them. And these seem the silliest of all; because they are conscious of their folly: whilst we may hope of the others, that they would act differently if they knew better.
3. A man will pass his days without weariness, in daily play for a trifling stake, whom you would make directly wretched, by giving to him each morning the probable winnings of the day, on condition of his not playing. You will say," But it is the amusement he wants, and not the gain." Then make him play for nothing, and you will see that for want of risk, he will
lose interest, and become weary. Evidently, then, it is not only amusement that he seeks. An amusement not calculated to excite the passions, is languid and fatiguing. He must get warmth, animation, stimulus, in the thought that he shall be happy in winning a trifle, that he would not consider worth a straw, if it were offered him without the risk of play. He must have an object of emotion adequate to excite desire, and anger, and hope, and fear.
So that the amusements which constitute men's happiness here, are not only mean,-they are false and deceitful: that is to say, they have for their object a set of phantoms and illusions, which actually could not occupy the human mind, if it had not lost its taste and feeling for that which is really good,-if it were not filled with low and mean propensities, with vanity, and levity, and pride, and a host of other vices. And these diversions only alleviate our present sorrows, by originating a misery more real and more humiliating. For it is they which mainly hinder us from thinking of ourselves, and make us lose our time without perceiv ing it. Without them, we should be unhappy, and this unhappiness would drive us to seek some more satisfactory way of peace. But amusement allures and deceives us, and leads us down imperceptibly in thoughtlessness to the grave.
Men finding that they had no remedy for death, misery, and ignorance, have imagined that the way to happiness was not to think of these things. This is all that they have been able to invent, to console themselves in the midst of so much evil. But it is wretched comfort since it does not profess to cure the mischief, but merely to hide it for a short time. And it does so hide it, as to prevent all serious thought of an effectual cure. And thus a man, finds, that by a i strange derangement of his nature, ennui, which is the evil that he most strongly feels, is in a certain sense his greatest good; and that amusement which he regards as his best blessing, is, in fact, his most serious evil; because it operates more than any thing else to